We’re in the final months of the run-up to the midterm elections in November, when all 435 members of the House of Representatives, about one-third of senators, and most state governors and legislators will be up for election. Despite the paralyzed, polarized politics of Congress, activists, and advocates will be busy down to the wire to have their issues heard and get supporters to the polls.
Data & Action-Driven Advocacy
For Gabrielle Jorgensen, co-founder of the public advocacy firm Climate Changemakers, this season provides an opportunity to build on both successful engagement from 2020 and the recent climate deal between Senators Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Joe Manchin, R-W.V. Jorgensen takes an approach based on engagement and action: signing petitions, writing op-eds, and phone banking. “We create easy-to-follow action playbooks,” she says.
Other advocacy organizations rely on a data science approach to find state and local races that will impact their issues. Caroline Spears, head of Climate Cabinet, tracks the voting records of more than 5,000 elected officials across the country and supports the ones making the biggest impact. “We have folks who aren’t on CNN all the time, but if you look at the climate impact, it’s pretty impressive,” she says.
In addition to tracking elected officials’ performance, Spears uses data to help candidates connect with voters, which activists and advocates find important for their own work. For example, a one-pager on connecting with rural voters warns candidates not to assume rural voters are homogeneous racially, politically, or economically. It also points out that policies that aren’t labeled as climate policies are popular, while phrases like “climate crisis” or “global warming” are polarizing for these voters.
In addition to gathering data to use, technology can help your organization measure its performance by tracking email opening rates, website hits, and how long people stay on your site, which can gauge engagement.
Keeping Advocates Engaged
One of the hardest things about driving engagement and mobilizing advocates is that politics in the U.S. can seem to move at a glacial pace, which can make people lose focus. Elections are an opportunity to drive interest since advocates can see real change being made. “In 2020, our volunteer engagement was much higher than in 2021,” Jorgensen says. “I think people are starting to flood back in [because of the midterms].”
Seeing progress can also keep advocates engaged. “Before the climate deal was announced we were struggling to keep people engaged,” Jorgensen says. “Lack of gratification can be demoralizing. It’s really tough to communicate impact.”
It’s important to communicate your wins to advocates and keep them updated on issues. Regular updates and check-ins, whether a monthly newsletter or quarterly town hall meeting, ensure advocates stay connected and energized.
“Make meetings active and lively so they’re meeting personalities, and try to get higher levels of the organization involved,” suggests Sean Keefer, government relations director at Ecolab. “Ensure your advocates feel that buy-in and are with you to the end, rather than splitting off because of a lack of engagement.”
Another way Jorgensen keeps people motivated is by building community. Her organization arranges Hour of Action events with various activities like webinars, policy briefings, and collaboration opportunities to keep supporters engaged. They also have a Slack for members to communicate with each other, as well as a resource library with step-by-step guides to help advocates take action.
Communicate With Supporters
Keeping advocates aware and involved is another important job. Social media and smartphones have overtaken direct mail and phone calls. Traditional text messages, as well as group chat applications such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, can be a means of outreach, as well as allow some two-way communication. Apps that can be accessed from a computer as well as a phone, such as Slack or Discord, might be better for coordinating and managing volunteers.
VoterVoice’s 2022 Advocacy Benchmark Report found that over 7,480,000 advocacy texts were sent by VoterVoice clients in 2021, up from more than 3,310,000 the year before. From January to June 2022 alone, our clients sent over 3 million advocacy texts with an open rate of nearly 7 percent and a higher action rate seen in past years at 2.6 percent.
Snapchat, TikTok, and Instagram are great if you want to connect to people under 30. Facebook and YouTube can offer more in-depth engagement. More than 45 percent of VoterVoice clients surveyed say social media has had a significant impact on their industry in the last few years. VoterVoice’s 2022 Advocacy Benchmark Report shows Facebook remains by far the number one social network for driving traffic to Action Centers, but YouTube jumped up in popularity this year, bringing in over 8 percent of traffic. Closely following is Instagram Stories, which continues to gain ground each year. All these tools can help bring your campaign to a broader audience.
It’s important to thank advocates often for donating their time and effort. You can offer incentives like special events — an end-of-campaign or election night party, a movie night, conferences, or roundtables — as a reward and place to seek feedback from advocates.
Focus Your Efforts
A big part of using data to make advocacy decisions is figuring out where you can make the most impact. For Spears, that’s at the state and local level, where the impact of individual voters and small donations is magnified. The federal elections can even distract from what Spears is trying to do. “It’s very challenging – a lot of people out there are already thinking about the presidential election in 2024,” she says.
On the other hand, federal elections can be big opportunities for advocates: the media may be more interested in covering advocacy, other organizations will be ramping up their work and interested in collaborating, and people may be more willing to volunteer their time for phone banking, canvassing, or other activities.
Create a Winning Election-Year Strategy with VoterVoice
Advocacy success is largely dependent on using the right technology tools. Offering a true end-to-end digital advocacy solution, VoterVoice helps you move the needle on the issues that matter — especially in a busy election year.
VoterVoice empowers your organization to send surveys, newsletters, polls, and updates year-round so that your base has all the information they need to cast their ballot. VoterVoice has everything you need to run a successful campaign and everything your advocates need to stay in the know.